A Note From The Editor: With weighty topics there is a great measure of uncertainty and discomfort, yet also a great call to stand together in patience and understanding. The following is the second post in our conversation about the Myths and Meanings of depression. It’s our desire that increased awareness will bring hope for those who are searching for support.
The suffering caused by clinical depression is often not seen — leaving those struggling feeling like they have to be in extreme pain in order to justify their hurt and need for treatment. This results in treatment being delayed or not even sought, regardless of the severity of the symptoms.
Clinical depression can make its sufferers feel trapped. Seeing no way out can deepen the depression symptoms and create fertile ground for hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. But, there is hope because depression can be treated. The sooner support is received will positively impact the outcomes of treatment.
Tackling the myths that get in the way of effective support and treatment is an important step in decreasing the number of those suffering from this serious mental health condition.
MYTH: Seeking treatment will just make my depression worse. It is best to just suck it up and power through the hard days instead of talking about it.
MEANING: Understandably, we are so scared to show the parts of ourselves that are in pain. Depression and related issues are not the fault of the person suffering. When treated, those living with depression can have full lives and accomplish their goals and dreams. The path may look different and may even be more challenging, but developing a clear understanding on the importance of treatment, especially early intervention, is crucial to decreasing the devastating statistics around all mental health issues.
… emotional pain begins to heal when it is seen, heard and validated.
Depression is okay with not being named. It swims in isolation and despair. Depression is disorienting and makes asking for help so scary, so confusing. It tells the lie that it is better to stay with the known darkness of depression than to seek help. Yet, emotional pain begins to heal when it is seen, heard and validated. Developing a plan for long term treatment depends on many factors. A treatment team, traditionally involving a primary therapist, psychiatrist, primary physician, will assess the following:
- severity and duration of symptoms
- access to care
- brain chemistry
- family of origin
- untreated trauma/distressing life events
- sudden loss/bereavement
- chronic illness/pain
- co-occurring illnesses and addictions
- social support
MYTH: Treatment is a waste of time. Treatment just draws more attention to the negative when someone who is down should be focusing on the positive.
MEANING: Depression is not sadness. Depression is relentless and resistant to change. Yet, depression is also highly treatable. Developing the best treatment team may take some time and effort — which is challenging when managing depression symptoms — but worth the effort and the resources in the long term.
There are many approaches to treating depression and related mood disorders. Depending on access, resources, insurance and fit, it is worthwhile to research the following approaches to the treatment of depression:
- psychotherapy involving various modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, family systems, narrative, solution oriented
- EMDR therapy
- body focused therapies like psychodrama, sensorimotor psychotherapy and somatic experiencing
- alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, phoenix rising yoga therapy
- medication therapy
- group therapy and peer support groups
- music and art therapy
Treating depression can involve various levels of care: outpatient, intensive outpatient, day treatment, residential and inpatient. The level of care depends upon the severity of symptoms along with access to health care and resources.
The best results are seen when visiting a therapist along with medication therapy. Alternative/integrative approaches have become more accessible and desired. It is crucial to form a treatment team that coordinates care on a regular basis so that everyone is on the same page when offering support. Developing trust in the treatment team is also crucial, especially since relief is not always felt immediately after the start of treatment, which depends on each individual’s unique history, genetics and brain chemistry.
The therapeutic relationship is often more important than that actual approach used to treat depression. Feeling connected, respected and heard by a treatment team is a powerful indicator of whether an individual will comply with treatment and experience the benefits.
MYTH: It is pointless to try and manage depression. There is nothing I can do to feel better.
MEANING: When depression is less severe, there are several actionable choices which can help to bring relief. If symptoms are not too debilitating, the following can be extremely helpful. If relief is not experienced shortly thereafter or symptoms intensify after taking action on the following, more support is indicated immediately:
- mild to moderate activity for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
- natural vitamin D from sunshine
- connecting with a safe friend, colleague or support group
- creative expression such as crafting, sketching, journaling
- feeding yourself well with nutrient dense food
- stretching or gentle yoga poses
- listening to or playing inspiring music
- developing a daily gratitude practice. (note: you do not have to feel gratitude to do gratitude)
- pet therapy
- volunteering for a meaningful cause organization
Stay tuned for Part III in this Myths and Meanings Series: Providing Support and Resources for Depression.
Image via Chelsie Autumn Photography